By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
The idea of a female version of Doctor Who was suggested a long time ago. Not everyone will know the comedic skit created by celebrated Rowan Atkinson for Red Nose Day charity telethon. The Curse of Fatal Death is not canon, but it had people talking. Officially, the idea in “Hand of Fear” (1976) set the concept in motion. The Kartrian Eldrad talked about the transition from one gender to another. Throughout the New Who years (2005 onwards), the notion has been tossed around. The most notable transition was Missy revealed herself to be a The Master!
Whatever the real world reason was for giving the role to a woman, audiences were more or less prepared. Giving this highly beloved character a makeover was not done to raise ire of misogynistic fans. Instead, it’s to keep this character refreshed so newcomers can jump in. When the media attention is this big, people are most likely to tune in.
Jodie Whittaker nails the idea of playing an alien time lord right. She’s erratic and wonky. Although aspects of past personas (that of Calpadi and Tennant) is tainting her debut, she is capable of being indomitable. For much of this episode, she is wearing Calpadi’s costume. Until more of her own personality shows, one episode is not enough to judge.
After such an amazing holiday special, “Twice Upon a Time,” to have an average episode afterward was a letdown. Leaps in logic were made. When recalling how the Fourth Doctor simply fell to his death, how can plummeting through an atmosphere be better? “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” no doubt had regeneration energy coursing through her body as she made the descent.
The episode was a regurgitated take on Predator, sans bite. With no surprise, a borough of London becomes a proving ground for an alien hunter out to destroy another. Neither care about the local populace and terror ensues. I wished the opponent was a hellspawn of Azathoth but instead it was some techno octopus. I hoped for a straight on tale of terror, but the episode was a story more worthy of a SyFy movie of the week.
The new companions have interesting back stories which will get developed as the season develops. I’m particularly interested in Ryan (Tosin Cole). He’s a cancer survivor, and for him to experience life with the Doctor can get exciting. Yasmin (Mandip Gill) still has to earn her badge. She’s a cop in training and can prove to be some kind of muscle as they embark on interstellar adventures. When considering part of this season will involve The Doctor searching for her TARDIS, hopefully, encounters with a deadlier foe will bring back the Great Vampire. I seem to recall the time machine exploded, and few civilizations can do that! Instead of a Christmas special, perhaps there will be a Halloween one instead.
While I am not expecting the Daleks or Cybermen to appear soon, this new series certainly needs more episodes to prove this new incarnation of the Doctor can save many worlds. If anything this debut episode is more like an epilogue. I’m holding out for The Ghost Monument to set in motion what this season will be like.